It sounds absurd to read that doesn’t it? Any rational person would read the title of my blog and shake their head, probably wondering to themselves, “Who in the world would be jealous of their own son or daughter?” Don’t all parents celebrate their children’s accomplishments, brag about them every chance they can get and shed tears of joy when they see their children succeed at something that they worked hard for? How in the world can a parent even have a shred of jealousy towards their child?
In a normal parent-child relationship; the parent is a child’s biggest cheerleader. We build them up, support them when they are down, and tell them constantly how proud we are of them. Being jealous of our own child never even enters our thought process because we are so proud of them and the person that they are growing up to be. But in some parent-child relationships, the parent is never the child’s cheerleader. In some parent-child relationships, the child is in direct competition with their mother or father.
Spending your childhood with a parent who is jealous of you is one of the most hurtful things that a child can experience. Instead of praise after you accomplished something, you hear how your parent could have done it ten times better than you. Instead of being told that we are beautiful and unique, we are told that our parent will always be the prettier one. Nothing we do can ever match up to the “greatness” of our parent and we will always live in their shadow.
My mom used to call me her sister in public. She used to stand next to me in the mirror in the bathroom and point out how much prettier her facial features were than mine. If I brought home a great grade on a spelling test or math test, she would scrunch her face up and tell me that she could have gotten 110% on the test. When I began to get older and fill out; Mom began to tear apart my body and called me horrible names on a daily basis, all the while pointing out how beautiful she was.
No matter what I did, Mom could and probably already did it better. I never heard a “good job” or “Wow! You look really pretty today!” I heard, “Ha! You think you are so special, I could do that blindfolded!” or “Wow, you look like absolute hell today, are you sure I gave birth to you?”
You can imagine what that did to my self-esteem. You can imagine the struggle I had in my head, trying to make Mom happy yet wanting some recognition for myself once in a while. You can imagine the tears I cried after Mom was done letting me know how disgusting and horrible I was; all the while painting herself to be as virtuous and beautiful as the Virgin Mary.
Growing up with a jealous parent; a parent who thinks of themselves more than their own child and who cannot stand the spotlight on anyone other them themselves leaves the child with self-esteem issues that last long into adulthood. We never think we are good enough, we never feel as if we deserve the spotlight, and we can never accept a compliment. Why? Because in the back of our heads, all we can hear is our parent telling us that we are nothing compared to them. All we know is that no matter how hard we try; we will never be able to outshine our own parent.
It didn’t even occur to me that Mom was jealous of me until I was an adult and I really began examining why she was saying the things she did. I realized that everything that she bragged about or made fun of me about were actually things that she was insecure of about herself. And it makes me feel sorry for her. I feel sorry for her because it is obvious to me that she is so insecure about herself that she can’t even be happy for her own flesh and blood. I feel sorry for her because she despises herself so much that she can’t even tell her own child that she looks pretty. I feel sorry for her because she missed out on the joy of celebrating my accomplishments because she was so focused on keeping the spotlight on herself.
Embrace your children’s accomplishments, praise them, and compliment them as much as possible. Your children are a direct reflection of you; their accomplishments are your accomplishments as a parent. There is plenty of room for the both of you to share the spotlight.